Thursday, March 24, 2005

March 24, 2005: Hansard. Grewal reveals his bonding scheme to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Bill Siksay: All right. Mr. Kurland, you mentioned in the brief that you had some comments about Australia. Do you know what the provisions of the sponsorship requirement are there, whether there's a bond, and what the amount of the bond is and how it's calculated? Did that result in some kind of backlog in Australia?

Mr. Richard Kurland: I'm unaware of a backlog in Australia. The Australian model statistics report eVisa issuance as well, and the actual differentiation between the Canadian and Australian rate is between 8% and 9%. I think you have to see the Australian model in the context of its intended direction in the immigration policy as a whole, particularly, I suspect, vis-à-vis their take on parents and their particular context.

That's why it looks like the door may be open, if we have 10-year processing times for parents and grandparents, to do something about that issue the Canadian way.

Mr. Bill Siksay: How much time do I have left, Mr. Chair?

The Chair: You have only 14 seconds.

Mr. Bill Siksay: Mr. Grewal, could you comment on the cash-only proposal of Mr. Kurland?

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: I don't have any problem with the cash-only issue, but if it is material property, I don't have any problem with that either.

Mr. Bill Siksay: But you decided to go a different way, in terms of a percentage rather than a flat fee?

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: Yes, that was my proposal, to eliminate any concern of discrimination. People have come to my office and signed papers for up to $100,000 bond. I'm not advocating that it should be $100,000, but on the other hand, I said if there is a percentage of income or savings or something like that, it would be proportionally the same for everyone. For some people $25,000 or $50,000 is too much, and it is too little for other people. As John said, a dollar is not a dollar. I agree, and I think percentage could be a good idea too.

The Chair: Thank you. Mr. Temelkovski.

Mr. Lui Temelkovski (Oak Ridges—Markham, Lib.): It's very fascinating, Mr. Grewal. You just said that in your office you've had people come in and sign up to $100,000? For what? Who is taking the money?

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: Let me put it this way: I didn't take any money from anyone.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: But in my office when people, you know.... Let me back up.

We don't have people coming to the MPs' offices asking for visas; they come only when the potential visitors are turned down. When they are turned down, we don't have any option; it's a dead-end road. There is no appeal process. Letters from MPs, as Madam Beaumier said, are meaningless, and a minister's permit is not within access of everyone.

So what do we do? In my office I have more consumption of tissues and napkins than tea and coffee, because people do cry in my office. So when they want me to intervene, I have to put my neck on the line. What do I do? What do I have in my hands? Just to test their genuineness, to make sure they are genuine and that their potential visitor will go back.

As you said, some prominent leaders in the community can vouch for someone. That's one good thing. The second thing is that I tell them it is between them and me and that I want to make sure what they said is what they meant. I ask them if they could sign a guarantee for me--I just experiment with an amount. People say, “Okay, I'm prepared to sign for $1 million”. I say, “No, that's too much. Let's do something reasonable, that is legally possible”. I prepare a guarantee bond document and ask them to sign it. When they sign it, I write a letter to Immigration saying that I vouch for them because they have assured me that their potential visitor will go back, even though I don't have any mechanism to catch them and make sure they leave.

But we all write letters, all members of Parliament. On what basis do we give assurance for A and not for B? We don't have any criteria; we don't have any investigative tools in our hands to judge whether A will go back or B will go back. So when we write a letter, then I think I should have something in my hands.

I tried it, and it worked.

Mr. Lui Temelkovski: It's a piece of a letter that you have in your hands, and that works?

Mr. Gurmant Grewal: In my office it's worked so far.

Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Amazing.

I want to go back to the idea of visitors who are refused and don't have anybody in Canada who can support them. What happens to those people? Are they discriminated against? They want to see the CN Tower; they want to see Niagara Falls. Would that precipitate a third party to start a business, hang a shingle and say, “We're sponsors to visitors who have been refused. Give us $50,000, and we'll sponsor you. You give your $50,000, then we'll charge you 10% or 20%”? Would we be starting a--


Ms. Isabelle Dongier: We are providing a tool for that. If some people want to use it, we are providing a tool for it.

It would depend on the country they come from and on their profile. If they're single, young, unemployed or whatever, if they have this profile, they may have a high risk of being refused. Yes, if they have no family or friends, if they know nobody in Canada, we would certainly open a door for them.

Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Maybe a door for unruly practice.

Ms. Isabelle Dongier: Well, people who have imagination and can find ways to--

Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Of course. My other point is that everybody, I believe, has agreed that the intent of the bill is good. The reason the intent of the bill is good is because there is a problem. Can the department or the Bar Association come up with some solutions other than this bill? It doesn't look too good to me.

Ms. Isabelle Dongier: I guess part of the solution would be a change in mentality.

Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Tell us more.

Ms. Colleen Beaumier: Is that like a lobotomy?

Ms. Isabelle Dongier: We have officers in visa offices who have some biased attitudes.

Mr. Lui Temelkovski: Training issues.

Ms. Isabelle Dongier: They tend to be overcautious. They don't want to take any risk and they are told not to take any risk. We could probably give them other guidelines as to how to look at a case—look at it as an individual case, not as a member of a group of citizens.

The Chair: Thank you very much.